Israel: Our Destiny
The troubles, disappointments and disasters that visit the Jewish people on
their trek through the Sinai desert begin in this week’s parsha. Moshe
announces that “we are traveling now to our ultimate destination – the Land
But deep down in their hearts the people are not really that anxious to go
there. They have in their minds and hearts two options, either to remain in
the desert and live a life of supernatural miracles and there become the dor
deah – the generation of exclusive intellect and Torah knowledge, or to
return somehow to Egypt with all that that radical move would entail,
physically and spiritually.
The Torah will soon detail for us that neither of these two options are
satisfactory either. They will complain about the manna that falls from
heaven daily and the seeming lack of variety in their meals. They don’t like
the water supply which is never guaranteed to them.
They remember the good food that they supposedly had in Egypt but according
to Midrash, only a small minority actually wishes to return to Egypt on a
permanent basis. They will press forward with Moshe to reach the promised
Land of Israel, but they will do so reluctantly and halfheartedly.
And, this will lead inexorably to further rebellion, tragedy and the death
of an entire generation – notwithstanding its being a dor deah – in the
desert of Sinai. This makes this week’s parsha a very sad and depressing
one, for we already know the end of the story. We can already see that this
generation has doomed itself to desolation and destruction.
Coming to the Land of Israel and its Jewish state, whether as a tourist and
most certainly when someone immigrates, requires commitment and enthusiasm.
There are many who came to Israel over the past one hundred years by
default, but the country has truly been served and built by those who came
with a sense of mission, purpose, happiness and expectation.
Moshe’s clarion call, “that we are traveling to the place” of our destiny,
echoes throughout the Jewish ages. Not all such calls are heard and even
fewer are followed. Nevertheless the call has resonated within the Jewish
people for all of its history. It is that call that appears in today’s
parsha and again it is that call that Moshe proclaimed millennia ago that
was and is the guiding motive for the existence of the State of Israel today.
Just as then in the desert, there are options for Jews today present in our
world. The many “Egypts” of the world beckon with all of their seeming
allure but also with great underlying faults and dangers. And there are
those who wish to continue to live in a desert that demands nothing from
them and contemplate themselves somehow as being a dor deah.
History has always arisen and smitten these options from the Jewish future.
The long trek begun by Moshe and Israel in this week’s parsha continues. We
hope that we are witnessing, at last, its final successful conclusion.
Rabbi Berel Wein